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College Counseling FAQ

The following is a list of some of the most commonly asked questions about college counseling at Winsor. The information is organized by the following four sections:

I. Contacts
II. Standardized Testing
III. The College Search
IV. The Application Process

Director of College Counseling – Craig Allen callen@winsor.edu 617-912-1350

Associate Director of College Counseling – Jennifer Graham jgraham@winsor.edu 617-912-1318

College Counseling Assistant – Helen Grassi hgrassi@winsor.edu 617-912-1350

I. Contacts

How do I contact the College Counseling Office or specific Winsor college counselors?

Director of College Counseling – Craig Allen callen@winsor.edu 617-912-1350

Associate Director of College Counseling – Jennifer Graham jgraham@winsor.edu 617-912-1318

College Counseling Assistant – Helen Grassi hgrassi@winsor.edu 617-912-1350

Whom do I contact for a meeting?

To set up a meeting with Mr. Allen or Ms. Graham, please contact Helen Grassi, the college counseling assistant.

II. Standardized Testing

Which tests will my daughter have to take in order to apply to college?

Winsor students typically take the PSAT (Preliminary SAT – not reported to colleges) as preparation for the SAT, the SAT Reasoning Test, and at least 2 SAT Subject Tests. Some students also take the ACT (an alternative to the SAT).

When are the PSATs?

The PSATs are normally in mid October on a Saturday morning at 8 a.m.

Who takes the PSATs?

The PSATS are optional for class VI and we ask that they sign up with the college counseling office in advance in order to be registered. The PSATs are required for class VII. All class VII students are automatically registered.

When will I receive my PSAT scores?

Class VI students will receive their scores in the mail at home in December or January depending on when Winsor receives them from the College Board. Class VII students will receive scores in person from the college counseling office in December.

What are the differences between the SAT and ACT?

The SAT is a reasoning test. The ACT is a content-based test. The SAT has a critical reading section, math section, a writing section, and an essay section. The ACT has an English section, math section, reading section, science section, and an optional writing section with an essay. We recommend taking the optional writing section. The tests are scored differently; guessing is not penalized on the ACT, whereas on the SAT, incorrect answers are assessed -1/4 of a point. Because of the different formats and scoring of the tests, we recommend that students become familiar with both tests. The college counselors will help each student formulate a personalized standardized testing plan.

When should I take the SATs or ACTs?

We recommend that students take the SAT Reasoning Test and/or the ACT in the spring of their junior year.

How many times do students take the SATs?

Typically, students take the SAT twice, but some students achieve the scores they want the first time, and others take it more than two times. The college counselors work with each student to develop a personalized testing plan.

Which Subject Tests to students typically take and when?

At the conclusion of the Class V year, students who have excelled in biology, sometimes take the Biology-E (ecological) or the Biology-M (molecular) SAT Subject Test. The Biology-E test concentrates on ecology and diversity in organisms. The Biology-M test emphasizes cellular biology and genetics. A solid understanding of Algebra 1 and familiarity with Alegbra 2 can be beneficial. Winsor’s biology teachers are happy to answer questions about the test.

At the conclusion of the Class VI year, students who have excelled in chemistry and have a solid understanding of Algebra II sometimes take the Chemistry SAT Subject Test.

Most SAT Subject Tests are taken at the end of the Class VII year. The following tests are the ones most frequently taken by Winsor students:

Physics (In addition to excelling in Winsor’s Physics or Honors Physics course, students taking the Physics SAT Subject Test, should be earning a strong grade in Precalculus.)

Math Level 1 (includes mostly questions from Algebra 1, Geometry and Algebra 2)

Math Level 2 (includes fewer geometry questions and more advanced algebra, as well as precalculus questions) Note: Students interested in engineering, mathematics, or applied science as potential majors should strongly consider the Math Level 2 SAT Subject Test.

English Literature (Winsor’s English classes [and to some degree history courses] with their emphasis on close reading, provide excellent preparation for the Literature SAT Subject Test).

Chinese, French, Spanish or Latin (Students who have completed a third or fourth year of language study are prepared to do well on a language SAT Subject Test.)

There are other SAT Subject Tests that Winsor students occasionally take. For further information please visit the CollegeBoard website, where you can find explanations of each subject test and mini-practice tests, as well as a calendar of when specific tests are offered as not all Subject Tests are offered on every test date.

Do all colleges require the same standardized testing and do I have to send scores from every test I have taken?

Different colleges may have different testing requirements. Because requirements vary, it is essential to check each college’s website for the testing requirements and discuss with your college counselor. Some colleges do ask for a complete score report of all standardized testing taken, while many others allow students to pick and choose which scores they would like to send to the colleges for review.

Do all colleges require standardized testing?

An increasing number of colleges and universities are making standardized test scores optional. Others are becoming more flexible with the test scores an applicant can submit for review. Below is a list of some of the score optional colleges and universities to which Winsor students sometimes apply.

American University
Bard College
Bates College
Bowdoin College
Bryn Mawr College
Colby College
College of the Atlantic
College of the Holy Cross
Colorado College
Connecticut College
DePaul University
Drew University
Denison University
Dickinson College
Fairfield University
Franklin and Marshall
Furman University
George Mason University
Gettysburg College
Goucher College
Guilford College
Hamilton College
Hampshire College
Hobart & William Smith
Lawrence University
Lewis & Clark College
Loyola University, MD
Middlebury College
Mt. Holyoke College
Muhlenberg College
New York University
Pitzer College
Providence College
Rollins College
Sarah Lawrence College
University of the South
Smith College
St. Lawrence University
Union College
Wake Forest University
Wheaton College
Wittenberg University
Worcester Polytechnic Institute

How do I send my test scores to colleges?

Colleges require students to arrange for official scores to be sent directly from the testing agency to the college. This can be done through the CollegeBoard or ACT websites. Each time a student takes a SAT Reasoning Test, ACT, or SAT Subject Test(s), she can list up to four colleges to which she would like her scores sent for free as part of the registration process. Some students wait to review their scores before having them sent to colleges, and there is a fee for each score report issued. Typically, it takes two weeks for the scores to arrive at the college and often an additional week for the college to process them. In the rare case that scores need to be “rushed”, an additional fee will be required.

What are Advanced Placement (AP) exams and when do they take place?

An AP exam is the culminating assessment of an Advanced Placement course or a course that has been taught that covers the AP content. AP courses are certified by the AP Program (a subsidiary of the CollegeBoard) as being college level. Originally used for college credit, scores from AP exams and AP courses listed on transcripts are sometimes used by college admission offices as demonstrations of rigor and college readiness. AP Exams typically take place for two weeks in May.

Are AP exams required?

Winsor policy indicates that if a student takes an AP class, then the AP exam is required. Because Winsor’s English curriculum (Class VII electives, in particular) aligns with the content of the AP English Language and English Literature exams, most Winsor students opt to take one of both of these exams even though the courses are not specifically designated “AP English classes”

How are AP scores sent to colleges?

Colleges typically do not need official score reports from the AP program until a student matriculates. For the purposes of convenience and presenting supporting materials, each AP score of 4 or 5 (out of a possible score of 5) is automatically placed on the senior year transcript and sent to each college to which students apply.

III. The College Search

When do colleges visit Winsor?

Every year approximately 75 college admission representatives visit the Winsor campus during the fall in order to meet students and present information about their colleges. Occasionally there are similar visits in the spring. These meetings provide excellent opportunities for students to meet and interact with members of a college’s admissions staff. In most cases the representative who visits is the person responsible for presenting students’ applications to their colleagues in committee meetings.

What should I do if I have rehearsal, class review, or another important obligation when a representative from a college to which I am applying is visiting?

If possible, stop by to introduce yourself to the representative. If you can’t, let your college counselor know that you have an obligation and the counselor will inform the admissions representative.

Who can attend the college info sessions at Winsor?

The fall meetings are designed for the seniors. The spring visits are geared more to the juniors. We ask that students confer with their teacher before an information session if they would like to miss class.

When should I start to visit colleges?

Spring Break of the junior year is a great time to start visiting colleges. In addition to seeing colleges that are of interest, it can be useful to visit different types of colleges (small, rural, liberal arts colleges, for example, or large, urban, research universities). College visits typically continue into the summer, fall, and even spring of the senior year. It is important to remember when scheduling visits that students should always prioritize their commitments to their academic classes and extracurricular activities.

When can I make my first meeting with a college counselor?

The formal college counseling process begins in the spring of the Class VII year, though the college counselors are available to answer questions at any point. Once the college counselor has an initial meeting with a student, her parent(s) can request a meeting.

Do you recommend any books for Winsor students and parents about the college search and application process?

College Unranked: Ending the College Admissions Frenzy, Lloyd Thacker, ed. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA 2005. Advice and insight from college presidents, deans of admissions, and college counselors.

The College Admissions Mystique, Bill Mayher, Noonday Press, New York, NY 1998. Advice from a respected retired college counselor.
Colleges that Change Lives, Loren Pope, Penguin Books, New York, NY, 2000. Portraits of colleges chosen by a long-time college counselor who has a bent towards small colleges.

Looking Beyond the Ivy League: Finding the College That's Right For You, Loren Pope, Penguin Books, New York, NY, 1995. Wise words from the same long-time college consultant.

Cool Colleges: For the Hyper-Intelligent, Self-Directed, Late Blooming, and Just Plain Different, Donald Asher, Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA, 2000. Profiles and portraits of colleges and types of colleges directed at students listed in the title.

Winning the Heart of the College Admissions Dean, Joyce Slayton Mitchell, Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA, 2005. Insight into the complexities of the college admissions process.

The Gatekeepers, Jacques Steinberg, Viking, New York, NY, 2002. A New York Times journalist takes an inside look at how a prestigious university admissions office selects a class over one entire admissions cycle.

The Fiske Guide to Colleges, Edward Fiske, Sourcebooks, Naperville, IL, 2002. Widely respected comprehensive resource book presenting college profiles in narrative descriptions.

The Insider's Guide to the Colleges, Yale Daily News staff, St. Martin's Griffin, New York, NY, 2007. Another popular guidebook with profiles, this one written by student journalists.

Visiting College Campuses, Janet Spencer and Sandra Maleson, Princeton Review, Random House, New York, NY, 2004. Good planner with detailed maps, mileage, directions and places to stay when visiting colleges.

The Launching Years: Strategies for Parenting from Senior Year to College Life, Laura S. Kastner Ph.D., and Jennifer Wyatt, Ph.D., Three Rivers Press, New York, NY, 2002. The authors address the double bind of parenting late adolescents – letting go and holding on, all at the same time.

Letting Go: A Parents' Guide to Understanding the College Years, Karen Levin Coburn and Madge Lawrence Treeger, Harper Perennial, New York, NY, 2003. A sensitive, informative and well-written guide to help parents know what their children are getting into when they leave for college.

Making the Most of College, Richard J. Light, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 2004. This is a valuable book filled with insights about the next steps after admission – a practical guide that can enrich the college experience.

Test Prep Books

The Official SAT Study Guide: For the new SAT, The College Board, Henry Holt and Company.

The Official Study Guide for all SAT Subject Tests, The College Board, Henry Holt and Company.

IV. The Application Process

What are the components of a typical application?

In evaluating candidates for admission, college admission officers consider many factors. Among the most important are:

• High school academic record (including courses taken and grades)
• Standardized test scores
• The quality of the student’s application (usually including an essay)
• School and faculty recommendations
• Extracurricular activities, internship experience, employment
• Special talents and interests

What about interviews?

Different colleges have different interview policies. Some require interviews, some make them optional, some offer interviews with alumni, and some colleges do not offer interviews at all. It is important to become familiar with the interview policies of each college on a student’s list. The college counselors are available to help students prepare for interviews.

I have heard about applying “Early.” What does that mean?

Most college applications are due in January or February of the student’s senior year. These are known as regular decision applications and a student can apply to as many schools as she likes (though the college counselors recommend a thoughtful, targeted list of approximately six to nine schools). Students typically receive admission decisions at the end of March or in early April.

Many colleges also offer some version of an early application round, with application deadlines typically in November and with decisions arriving in December. “Early Decision” asks a student to make a binding commitment to a college. If accepted, the student cancels any other applications and accepts the offer of admission. “Early Action” does not require a student to commit to the college; therefore, she can submit regular decision applications as well.

What are the possible responses to an application?

In the regular decision round, applicants can be accepted, denied admission, or placed on a college’s waiting list. In an early admission round, students can be accepted, denied admission, or deferred to the regular decision round.

What should I know about financial aid?

Given the high cost of higher education, many families apply for financial aid. College financial aid officers attempt to make college attendance possible by working with eligible students and their parents on a need-based financial aid program consisting of loans, grants and work-study options. Applying for financial aid usually does not affect one’s chances of being accepted at a college. Financial aid calculators (widely available on individual college websites and on the CollegeBoard’s website) can provide useful estimates of financial aid eligibility.

Many colleges and organizations award non-need-based financial aid as well. Most of these awards or scholarships are based on academic merit, leadership skills or athletic potential. As well, sometimes there are scholarships available from parents’ employers, towns, churches and community organizations such as the Rotary Club or Kiwanis.

How do I apply for financial aid?

To apply for financial aid, a student and her parents must complete several forms in addition to an application for admission. Different colleges may have different procedures and deadlines for applying for aid so it is vital to become familiar with each college’s requirements. Generally, students and parents are asked to fill out the Federal Government’s FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Often students and their parents are also asked to submit a college’s own financial aid application and an additional document called the CSS (College Scholarship Service) PROFILE, which contains questions that are not included on the FAFSA. The CSS PROFILE (found at CollegeBoard.com) has a fee, but the FAFSA (as the name implies) is free. The college counselors can help with the financial aid process. Another useful resource is the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority (MEFA). Winsor co-sponsors a financial aid workshop with other Boston-area independent schools, typically in December.

When do I have to make a decision about which college I am going to attend?

Students need to make a decision about which college to attend by the deposit deadline of May 1. Students can deposit at only one college or university. If she has been offered a spot on a college’s waiting list, she still should deposit at one of the colleges at which she has been accepted. If an offer of admission from the waiting list is made after May 1st, the student will lose her deposit if she accepts the spot off the waitlist. The college counselors are available to help students and families make decisions and navigate the entire process.
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